Thursday Movie Picks: Origin Movies

This week's theme from Wandering Through The Shelves wants us to go back to the beginning. I wanted to alter this post to go along with Girls Week but I kind of screwed myself over by already using Wonder Woman, Alien, and Star Wars. Aside from the Hunger Games I couldn't think of any other female led origin movies I really loved. So in rebellion, I'm going to vent in a completely mature and appropriate fashion...by talking some shit on my blog. So here are three origin movies that completely failed. 

1) Halloween (2007)

You know who should never be allowed to write a screenplay? Rob Zombie. As a horror director, I have no problem with him. He has a eye for gore, but did we really need Michael Myer's trailer trash origin story? No. We didn't. The only good thing to come out of this was Scout Taylor Compton. She's great.

2) Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning

This one is so bad it's offensive. I have to admit I was somewhat curious about Leatherface's origins but this film quickly made me realize I'm better off without them. I should've walked out of this movie. The only thing it wanted to do is "shock." The gore needs to shock, the rape needs to shock, and fuck logic. Did you know babies can crawl out of their mothers during childbirth? Baby Leatherface practically did that. 

3) Green Lantern

None of you knew me back then, but I was thirsty for this movie. The Green Lantern is legitimately a cool super hero and this was absolute D level trash. It's also proof that Ryan Reynolds clearly has the best agent in Hollywood. This guy's career should've been destroyed by this point and somehow he got lucky and was given Deadpool. It's unbelievable. 

Review: The Florida Project

What daycare?

It's summer in Florida, and six year old Moonee (Brooklynn Prince) runs around the shady motel that she and her mother, Halley (Bria Vinaite) currently reside. Halley loves her, but she doesn't have a steady job nor does she put much of an effort in looking after her. Moonee spends her days playing with her friends, destroying things and occasionally bothering the hotel manager Bobby (Willem DaFoe)

It's almost impossible to watch this movie and not get judgy if you're a parent. My child is also six, and the thought of letting him run around the way Moonee and her friends do with zero supervision is baffling to me. Watching Halley not putting in a huge effort to have a steady job is hard to watch too. That aside, seeing everything through Moonee's eyes is a perspective we don't get very often in film. When you first see her, she looks like a precious child. Then she goes off to spit on someone's car window and call the owner a "ratchet bitch." She's definitely a product of her environment and that's what makes her so interesting to watch.

Brooklyn Prince is magnificent is Moonee. Watching her is like watching a home video. She's so natural in this role that there's no sense at all that she's acting. Sometimes with child actors you can tell when they're just saying lines they were reminded of a few minutes prior and that's never the case with her. She has a scene towards the end of this movie that absolutely broke me. Bria Vinaite is also great as her foul mouthed mother. She dials the "trash" factor up to eleven. (a side note, those are the actress' real tattoos and they are gorgeous) And finally there's Willem DaFoe, the manager who's mostly 100% done with everything. You can tell even through his hard exterior that he cares, especially about Moonee and the other kids that are just left to wander. 

The Florida Project does suffer from some pacing issues. About half way through the film I started to wonder if there was going to be a point or climax to all of this. A lot of it is small scenes of Moonee just doing her day to day, but it does eventually have one. 

I'm glad I watched this film during Dell's Girl Week. Hopefully we see a lot of little Brooklyn Prince in the future.

Recommended: Yes

Grade: B+

Memorable Quote: "We gotta come back here again." - Moonee (Brooklynn Prince)




2018 Independent Spirit Nominations


The Spirit Award nominations were released today! A lot of these movies haven't been released near me yet but I have been fortunate enough to see a few. Here's a list of the nominations, followed by my thoughts. 

Best Feature
“Call Me By Your Name”
“The Florida Project”
“Get Out”
“Lady Bird”
“The Rider”
I've only see Get Out and The Florida Project, and both are worthy noms. The Rider is the only film I'm unfamiliar with. I was hoping to see Ingrid Goes West here. I figured that, Three Billboards, or I,Tonya would be here.

Best Director
Jonas Carpignano, “A Ciambra” 
Luca Gudagnino, “Call Me By Your Name”
Jordan Peele, “Get Out”
Benny and Josh Safdie, “Good Time"
Chlo√© Zhao, “The Rider”
No Greta Gerwig is surprising with how popular Lady Bird is. I was hoping to see Dee Rees for Mudbound (assuming it qualified?)

Best First Feature:
“Columbus”
“Ingrid Goes West”
Manahse”
“Oh Lucy”
“Patti Cake$”
There's Ingrid Goes West!

Best Female Lead
Salma Hayek, “Beatriz at Dinner”
Francis McDormand, “Three Billboards”
Margot Robbie, “I, Tonya”
Saiorse Ronin, “Lady Bird”
Shinobu Terajima, “Oh Lucy”
Regina Williams, “Life And Nothing More”
Nearly every review I've read for Beatriz at Dinner has been lukewarm at best so I'm kind of surprised to see it here. It's too bad Aubrey Plaza couldn't make it in for Ingrid. Or Brooklynn Prince for her fantastic performance in The Florida Project. I haven't seen any of the these, but aside from Beatriz I'll try to seek out all of them.

Best Male Lead
Timothee Chalamet, “Call Me By Your Name”
Harris Dicksinon, “Beach Rats”
James Franco, “The Disaster Artist”
Daniel Kaluuya, “Get Out”
Robert Pattinson, “Good Time”
I'm so happy for Kaluuya and it's nice to see Franco in there for one of my most anticipated films. 

Best Supporting Female:
Holly Hunter, “The Big Sick”
Allison Janney, “I Tonya”
Laurie Metcalf, “Lady Bird”
Louis Smith, “Marjorie Prime”
Taliah Lennice Webster, “Good Time”
Hunter was great in The Big Sick, that's the only one of these I've seen. I'l definitely check out the others. 

Best Supporting Male
Nnamdi Asomugha, “Crown Heights” 
Armie Hammer, “Call Me By Your Name”
Barry Keoghan, “The Killing of a Sacred Deer”
Sam Rockwell, “Three Billboards”
Bennie Safdie, “Good Time”
My theater just got The Killing of a Sacred Deer so I'll have that to check out soon. 

Best Screenplay
“Lady Bird”
“The Lovers”
“Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”
“Get Out”
“Beatriz at Dinner”

Best First Screenplay
“Donald Cried”
“The Big Sick”
“Woman Who Kill”
“Columbus”
“Ingrid Goes West”

Best Cinematography
“The Killing of a Sacred Deer”
“Colombus”
“Beach Rats”
“Call Me By Your Name”
“The Rider

Best Editing
“Good Time”
“Call Me By Your Name”
“The Rider”
“Get Out”
“I, Tonya”

John Cassavetes Award
“A Ghost Story”
“Dayveon”
“Life and Nothing”
“Most Beautiful Island”
“Transfiguration”

Robert Altman Award
“Mudbound”

Best Documentary
“The Departure”
“Faces Places”
“Last Men in Aleppo”
“Motherland”
“Quest”

Best International Film
“A Fantastic Woman”
“BPM”
“Lady Macbeth”
“I Am Not a Witch”
“Loveless”
Lady Macbeth is in my Netflix queue, so I should see this soon. 

Annual Kiehl’s Someone to Watch Award
Amman Abassi, “Dayveon”
Justin Chon, “Gook”



Review: Mudbound

How's your paradise? 

What a perfect time for Dell to star his annual Girls Week. While a woman does not take center stage in front of the camera, director Dee Rees is the true powerhouse behind this film. 

We follow two families working on farms in rural Mississippi during WWII. The first family, Henry McAllen (Jason Clarke) his wife Laura (Carey Mulligan) their two young daughters and Henry's father (Jonathan Banks) move out and really don't have the best grasp on things. Another family that has their own farm nearby an occasionally helps them are the Jacksons. Hap (Rob Morgan) his wife Florence (Mary J. Blige) and their children. Each family has a member coming home from WWII. Ronsel (Jason Mitchell) is Hap and Florence's oldest son whereas Jamie (Garrett Hedlund) is Henry's brother. Despite all the racism of that time, those two are able to form a true friendship while they both battle the effects of the war. 

Director Dee Rees made a film a few years ago called Pariah that I absolutely loved. She's equally as confident behind the camera here. What I love most is how differently she shot the families. The Jacksons are good at what they do and have a loving household. They're shot as such, even when things get bad for them. The McAllens always have twice the mud and grit as the new farmers and genuinely worse people. That's another thing Rees doesn't shy away from. This film is hard to watch.

Watching the McAllens treat the Jacksons like absolute garbage is infuriating. I kept turning to my husband during this and saying "Can you imagine actually treating someone like this?" After watching Jonathan Banks as Mike Ehrmantraut on Breaking Bad/Better Call Saul for so long, seeing him as this racist piece of shit is jarring. I also enjoyed how the film tackled post WWII PTSD. I feel like while we get films about that subject they're usually after later wars. So seeing one take place in this time frame feels fresh. 

The acting in the film was outstanding. The only one who was unremarkable was Jason Clarke, those I suppose he was effective because I kept hoping a building would fall out of the sky and land on his character. The MVP for me was Rob Morgan as Hap. I really hope he lands a Supporting Actor nomination. Everyone is talking about Mary B. Blige, who is also wonderful in her role, but Morgan needs to be in the discussion too. And of course, Mitchell and Hedlund sell their scenes beautifully. I just wish we could've had more of them. 

That brings me to my only issue, I wanted to be with Ronsel and Jamie more. They were the core of the story and not having read the book, I assumed we would see them in the war together too, which wasn't the case. I wanted to spend the majority of the time with them and the Jacksons, but we cut back to the McAllens way too often. Their racism was disgusting and exhausting. It's important to see the ugly, I know. But it's hard when the other parts of the story are just so much better. 

Mudbound is a heavy film, especially for what I normally find on Netflix, but it absolutely deserves to be seen.

Recommended: Yes

Grade: B+

Memorable Quote: "My sons are not getting down from that wagon." - Hap (Rob Morgan)


Indie Gems: Personal Shopper

It's trying to make contact.

Maureen (Kristen Stewart) is a personal shopper to a celebrity named Kyra (Nora von Waldst√§tten) in Paris. She's also a medium, like her twin brother. After he dies of a heart defect they both share, she vows not to leave Paris until she can make contact with him. All of this is complicated when she starts receiving mysterious text messages. 

Personal Shopper is a hard movie to define. It has elements that are very horror-like, but it's not a scary movie. It's very beautiful to look at with the shots of Paris and the high fashion involved. Director Olivier Assayas really has a lovely way of working with Kristen Stewart, this being his second outing with her after her wonderful performance in The Clouds of Sils Maria.

Stewart is great and this part is perfect for her. Maureen is in a bad place but often puts up a huge front and she conveys that with ease. She's in nearly every second of this film with the supporting characters merely revolving around her in a way, but that's okay. 

The ending certainly gives you something to think about. I find this could almost be a companion piece with A Ghost Story. Both are quiet and interesting looks on the afterlife in general. 

Recommended: Yes

Grade: B

Memorable Quote: "You have nothing better to do with your time than dress Kyra all day?" - Ingo (Lars Eidinger)

Thursday Movie Picks: Strong Female Characters

This week's theme from Wandering Through the Shelves is something I always crave, a strong female character. I tried to think of a theme here. I wanted to simply pick indie films but there's one character in particular I just can't help but talk about.

1) Gone Girl

Amy Dunne: The cool girl. I love Amy. I love to hate Amy. I thought she was despicable but I can't help but be blown away at all the shit she pulled off. Never call Amy Dunne weak. (No seriously, she might kill you)

2) Middle of Nowhere

I love this little film. Ruby sacrifices a lot in the name of her jailed boyfriend Her career, money, but she keeps her head up. She works hard. This was Emayatzy Corinealdi's first big role, and she owns it. 

3) In A World...

Carol is a vocal coach and voice actor who finds herself competing against her own father for a part in narrating a big movie. It's perfect for this week as so many people tell her she can't do this because she's a woman. But she CAN!

2017 Blind Spot Series: Midnight Cowboy


What I knew going in: That it's the only Best Picture winner with an X rating. And apparently John Wayne bitched about it.

Joe Buck (Jon Voight) is so cowboy even his suitcase is cow print. He naively thinks he can just move from Texas to New York City and automatically make it as a hustler based on his good looks alone. When that falls through, he forms an unlikely friendship with a different kind of hustler, Ratso. (Dustin Hoffman) They become partners in crime. 

Hoffman and Voight are excellent in this. I don't often associate Voight with stellar performances, but this one is worthy of that praise. I really liked the story and the reality checks served, but I wasn't wowed by this. While most of this film is really well done, there's one aspect of it that I found almost egregious; and that would be Joe's flashbacks to a traumatic event with a former love. I don't know if they were going for an exploitation vibe but it was just very poorly done and didn't fit with the rest of the film. It was jarring to switch between the two.

Those flashbacks aren't enough to ruin the film but overall I just felt it was okay. I can see why it was probably a big hit back - oh man, I always try to avoid saying this in my Blind Spots - in the day. It was a good enough watch for a quiet weeknight evening.

Recommended: Yes

Grade: C+

Memorable Quote: "I'm falling apart here!" - Ratso (Dustin Hoffman)